Promise Broken?

As several Conservative Senators reach their eight-year service mark this August, some say the idea that they had pledged to only stay that long is a myth, because former prime minister Stephen Harper had only asked for their support to pass a bill. But two Tory Senators don’t see it that way, with one saying leaving after eight years is the “right thing to do,” regardless.

Mr. Harper first proposed in 2007 to change the current Senate rules demanding retirement at 75; his legislation would have imposed eight-year term limits. By the time a later version of the bill, the Senate Reform Act, made it to the floor of the House, it had expanded to legislate a non-renewable nine-year term limit on all Senators appointed after Oct. 14, 2008—affecting the vast majority of his 59 appointments.

For many Conservative Senators, the conversation started and ended with the legislation, and when the Supreme Court unanimously struck down the change as unconstitutional in 2014 and Mr. Harper put aside his dreams of Senate reform, it ended any commitment to a set term.

While Conservative Senator Linda Frum, appointed in 2009, believes terms are a good idea, she said it’s a “great mythology” that the former prime minister asked term commitments of his Senate picks, and the commitment to support the legislation was voided by the court decision.


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